By: Jeffrey Lapin
This week’s Legal News You May Have Missed covers the week February 17 through 24, 2013. The news items include cell phones, Facebook, mortgage servicers, arbitration and the FBI.
FBI Takes Action Against Employees For Sexting, Criminal Offenses and Other Improper Actions
Internal Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports obtained by CNN show that from 2010 to 2012, the FBI disciplined 1,045 employees for a variety of violations, of which eighty-five were fired. Some of the offenses involve just violation of FBI rules, such as sexting on FBI-issued cell phones, while others involve criminal offenses. Some of violations that resulted in the employee’s termination include (taken from the actual FBI reports):
- Employee hid a recording device in supervisor’s office … made copies of supervisor’s negative comments about Employee that Employee located by conducting an unauthorized search of the supervisor’s office and briefcase. Employee provided the notes to lawyer in support of lawsuit against supervisor.
- Employee used a stranger’s lost or stolen debit card to purchase gasoline and attempted, on repeated occasions, to withdraw money from the person’s bank account at two ATM machines … Employee lied to the local police … and investigators.
- When caught in sting operation, Employee admitted purchasing and viewing DVDs of naked boys.
- Employee engaged in a romantic relationship with former boyfriend (now husband) knowing he was a drug user/dealer. Employee also lied under oath when questioned … [then] being aware when she married him that he was a habitual drug user’ who sold drugs to make money.
- Employee shoplifted from a grocery store on several occasions. Employee was caught on surveillance video.
- FBI battling ‘rash of sexting’ among its employees (By: Scott Zamost and Drew Griffin, via CNN)
- FBI’s Internal Reports (Obtained by CNN)
- FBI Disciplines Employees For ‘Sexting, Drunk Driving, Paying For Sex And Dating Drug Dealers’ (By: Rob Williams via Business Insider)
Ontario Court of Appeal Says Police Can Search Mobile Phones That Are Not Password-Protected
An appeals court in Canada has ruled that police can search the mobile phone of a person they have arrested without a warrant as long as the phone is not password-protected. If the phone has a password the police must obtain a search warrant. The judge, writing on behalf of the unanimous court, held, “ In this case, it is significant that the cell phone was apparently not password protected or otherwise “locked” to users other than the appellant when it was seized. Furthermore, the police had a reasonable belief that it would contain relevant evidence.”
The United States Supreme Court has not been asked to rule upon whether a warrantless search of a unlocked mobile phone is constitutional. Different courts in the United States have reached differing opinions on this issue.
Case: Court of Appeal of Ontario – R. v. Fearon, 2013 ONCA 106
Police Notify Mother About Son’s Death Through Facebook
It took weeks for Anna Lamb-Creasey to find out that her son was dead, and she’s blaming the delay on local police and an obscure Facebook messaging feature. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, police contacted Lamb-Creasey via a Facebook message to notify her that her 30-year-old son had been found dead. However, the message was sent from an anonymous, unofficial account named “Misty Hancock.” with a profile picture of rapper T.I., and therefore sat in her inbox unread for weeks. Facebook does have the ability for a message to get into another user’s Inbox for $1.00. Ms. Lamb-Crealy is furious about the police department and cannot understand why they did not try to contact her in person or by phone or, at the very least, from an official police department account.
Source: Mother upset after police use Facebook to notify her of son’s death (By: Tom Jones of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Homeowners Get Taken Advantage of By Mortgage Aid Companies
A Detroit woman, who sought a loan modification in August of 2009 under the Home Affordable Modification Program, ends up owing an additional $14,500 that is pushing her close to losing her home.
She was initially put on a “trial” modification program and dutifully made her payments under the modifications to Bank of America (BOA). However, after the government reviewed a number of modifications, the woman was told she did not qualify and her “trial” program was terminated. She made a couple of payments after but stopped when BOA would not send her loan statements. Three months later, foreclosure proceedings began.
The woman hired an attorney, who received an offer from BOA that was $59 higher than her original payment of $969. Including fees, escrow and interest under the trial modification, her loan balance had grown from $142,000, to $157,716. The woman’s attorney obtained a temporary order staying the foreclosure and eviction. The legal proceedings are still pending.
Source: Mortgage aid servicers sting homeowners (By: Brian J. O’Connor of the Detroit News)
Crime Writer Awarded Over $50 Million By Boston Jury
Patricia Cornwell, an award-winning crime writer and author of the Kay Scarpetta novels, was awarded $50.9 million by a Boston, Massachusetts jury. She had sued her former financial management company and its former principal, for negligently handling her finances. She also contended that many of them personally benefited from their dealings with her. She claimed tens of millions of dollars in losses or unaccounted revenue over four years. The defendants are considering their options, including appealing the verdict.
Source: Quite the plot twist: Crime writer Patricia Cornwell wins $50.9m in Boston lawsuit (By: Milton J. Valencia and Martin Finucane of Boston.com)
Arbitration- Triumph Passengers May Be Victimized Again
Although a lawsuit has been filed, the vast majority of passengers of the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Triumph likely will not be able to sue and will be forced into arbitration. The reason for this is that the “fine print” contained within the passengers’ tickets bar most lawsuits and require passengers to arbitrate any claim that have against Carnival. There is apparently an exception for claims involving “personal injury, illness or death.” In addition, there is language in the ticket that prevents passengers from being a part of a class-action lawsuit. This means even those who did get injured will be required to sue Carnival individually; they cannot be in a class-action lawsuit and be able to “share” the costs of litigation with the other injured passengers.
Source: Will cruise passengers be victimized again – by forced arbitration (By: Alliance for Justice)
That’s it for this week. If you find something interesting you would like us to post email it to Lapin Law Offices. If we post it we will give you credit, if you want, for sending it to us. Please do not send any copyrighted material or anything else you do not have the rights to send.
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